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Scariest fright Halloween night

October 13, 2014
Gwen Crum , MOV Parent

For me, few things are scarier than haunted houses, ghosts, witches, and vampires. But according to the Centers for Disease Control, recent statistics show that nearly 17 percent of all 2-19 year old American Children are obese. That's 12.7 million kids! And as the mother of a 12 year old, I find that very scary!

There has been much research and debate on what has caused this obesity "epidemic." Research shows that there are certain racial disparities related to obesity. Children from Hispanic or African-American backgrounds are at greater risk for obesity. There also some evidence that obesity rates are related to the education level of the head of any given household. The more education a head of household has, the less likely the children in that home will struggle with obesity. Likewise, other research shows that household decreased income levels may affect the likelihood of a child becoming obese. (

The research also shows that the potential physical impacts of childhood obesity include increased risk of: cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma, and joint problemsjust to name a few. In addition, children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be bullied which can lead to poor self-esteem and other psychological or social problems. (

While all these statistics are very scary, we, as Americans, do very little to help combat these frightening figures. From Halloween until Valentine's Day, our families spend very little time outdoors getting much needed physical activity. In addition, we increase our calorie count by celebrating a holiday every single month. As parents, we need to help teach our children how to make wiser choices during these holidays.beginning with Halloween Parties and Trick-or-Treat.

First, parties don't have to "focus" on food. Plan more physical activities such as making a scarecrow or carving pumpkins. Make pumpkin carving educational by measuring the pumpkin (weight, height, circumference, diameter, etc.). Then, count the seeds inside and compare the number of seeds to the size of each pumpkin. If you don't want to carve pumpkins, let children paint the pumpkins and use them as decorations throughout fall. Another option is to make the snack an activity at the party. Pinterest is full of ideas for Halloween snacks that kids can help (and will enjoy) to make.

Other ways to keep from focusing on food is to find non-food alternatives to pass out during trick-or-treat. Some great ideas that kids enjoy include: stickers, tattoos, glow sticks, bubbles, balloons, pencils, erasers, mini toys, or jump ropes. When planning party food, there are healthier alternatives to candy such as: fish shaped snack crackers, animal shaped crackers, pretzels, nuts, trail mix, granola bars, popcorn, bananas, apples, pears, oranges (think tangelos or clementines), carrot sticks, raisins, or other dried fruits.

While none of us can combat that national childhood obesity epidemic on our own, by making some small easy changes in our homes and schools, we can create healthier habits and impact our local communities. Be the trendsetter who blazes the trails with new healthier ideas when planning parties this Halloween and throughout the holiday season. Your child's long-term health (and waist line) may thank you.


Gwen Crum is the Families and Health Agent for the WVU Extension Service Wood County.



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